News and Information about the Eastern Massachusetts Plumbing Industry • April 2015 www.massplumbers.com
“Fenway has become
Developers play ball in the Fenway
a really cool part of the city.”
- Len Monfredo, E.M. Duggan See cover story
As construction cranes loomed over other sections of Boston, developers mostly ignored the Fenway area. It was viewed as a somewhat gritty neighborhood of student apartments, bars, parking lots, and of course, Fenway Park. The bars and parking lots overflowed during baseball season. The rest of the year it was quiet. The neighborhood is now making plenty of noise year round. The fate of the area was in jeopardy when the Red Sox briefly considered relocating and building a new ballpark in South Boston. When the team's owners instead committed to remaining indefinitely at Fenway Park in 2005 and making improvements to the iconic baseball shrine, it was a game changer that triggered a revival of the neighborhood. Billions of pent-up development dollars began flowing into the area. Major projects were approved. Today, large, multi-use buildings are either under construction or have recently been completed (some of them occupying former surface parking lots). “With everything going on in the Fenway, there is a lot of work for our members,” says George Donahue, business agent for Local 12. “On any given day, we could have up to 100 plumbers working on projects there.” Development has been radically transforming the Fenway. And more is on the way. Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Greater Boston 978-777-8764 www.phccboston.com
United Association Plumbers and Gasfitters Boston Local 12 617-288-6200 www.plumbersandgasfitterslocal12.org
“When you look at the ingredients for making a dynamic, downtown neighborhood, Fenway was a sleeping giant,” says Jonathan Greeley, senior infrastructure and public realm planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Key assets include robust public transportation options with two upgraded T stations, the Yawkey commuter rail stop, and the covered bus shelter in Kenmore Square. Schools, including Boston University, Northeastern, Wheelock, and others ring the area. The Longwood Medical Area is adjacent to the neighborhood. The Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Symphony Hall, and other cultural institu-
tions are nearby. Fenway Park is the jewel at the neighborhood’s center. What also got the development dominoes toppling was a progressive rezoning ordinance that the BRA negotiated with community stakeholders around the same time as the ballclub made its long-term commitment to Fenway. “Developers and investors had been banking land for years in the area,” Greeley says. “To Continued on page 3
Local 12 Plumbers Are at Your Service ocal 12 plumbers and the PHCC of Greater Boston contractors that hire them are well known and regarded for the commercial buildings they help construct. Their plumbing work is featured in virtually every major high rise as well as a host of other projects in and around the city. Once the construction is completed and the buildings open, however, they often do not return to maintain and service the systems that they installed. But that is changing.
A few forward-thinking contractors are ramping up their service departments and expanding their marketing efforts to secure more service work. Local 12 and the PHCC of Greater Boston encourage the trend and are offering resources to help grow service busiContinued on page 5
He Wants You to Join Plumbers Local 12 Look for Our New Name Harvard for a 30-day trial that THERE ARE PLENTY OF GOOD REASONS WHY PLUMBERS SHOULD JOIN
LOCAL 12. There
are also many good reasons why plumbing and mechanical shops should become signatory contractors with the Local. But in order for plumbers and shops to consider making the move, they need to learn about the good reasons. They need help understanding that it would be in their best interests to join the union. They need to make a connection with someone from Local 12 to begin the process. That someone is David Barbati. As Local 12’s director of business development and recruitment, Barbati has been pounding the pavement on behalf of the union for a few months. It is his job to enlist licensed journeyman plumbers as new members along with entire shops as signatory contractors. “When I share my message about the better working conditions, great training, solid benefits, improved wages, and overall brighter future that await plumbers who join Local 12,” Barbati says, “they are receptive and eager to hear more.” One of the reasons why plumbers respond well to Barbati is that they can relate to him. A licensed plumber with 34 years experience, he has plenty of credibility. Interestingly, he was not always a union member. For the first couple of years of his career, Barbati worked for a non-union shop and did not belong to Local 12. When the shop became a signatory contractor in the early 1980s, he joined the union. That gave him the perspective of both a non-union and union plumber. After enjoying the many rewards of being a member of the Local, he has never looked back. During his years in the field, Barbati has worked for contractors doing commercial construction work including multi-unit residential buildings and office buildings. For a few years he also owned his own shop. He went to
turned into an 11-year run. He mostly worked in its research labs performing maintenance. Barbati said that he enjoyed his years at the university and fostered many relationships with its staff, faculty, and students. The interpersonal skills he developed at Harvard now serve him well in his recruitment position at Local 12.
One of the key organizations in our industry, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors (PHCC) of Greater Boston, will soon have a new name and new focus. “We plan to become the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association – GB-PCA,” said Executive Director Hugh Kelleher.
He might still be working in the field, but life threw Barbati a curveball in mid-2013 when he was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. He has successfully battled it and is in remission. The illness led him to consider other work alternatives. When a position opened for an instructor at Local 12’s training center, Barbati applied. He didn’t get that job, but the presentation he made during the interviews and his industry experience caught the attention of Harry Brett, the Local’s business manager. Brett recruited him for the development position. Some non-union plumbers come to Barbati seeking information about joining the union. Each Wednesday, the Local offers an open house from 3 to 5 p.m. The business agents and he provide info and conduct interviews. Barbati also reaches out to nonunion plumbers at construction sites and other places of business. He says that he isn’t shy about making cold calls and spreading the word about the union. “I’m really embracing the job,” Barbati notes. Similarly, the recruiter has not been hesitant to approach shop owners. His message of the flexible workforce, trained and highly skilled labor, increased productivity, safer working environment, and more satisfied employees and customers that come with being a signatory contractor is resonating. For example, Barbati recently brought CMP Plumbing and Heating into the Local 12 fold. As a result, he also recruited its 13 employees as new members.
David Barbati is Local 12’s director of business development and recruitment “I’m seeing plenty of contractors as well as plumbers who are fed up with the way things are,” says Barbati. “They want something better for themselves and their companies.” Most of the shops with which Barbati meets are involved in new, commercial construction. However, Local 12 is hoping to attract more contractors that focus on residential and service work. These are markets that generally have not been on the Local’s radar for many years. As a result, Barbati has also been approaching smaller companies engaged in this type of work. He says that there is a lot of growth potential with these contractors. The recruitment work has been rewarding, and it has been great to see his efforts paying off, notes Barbati. He believes that the Local 12 message is compelling and that people in the industry are keen to receive it. “Believe it or not,” he says, “there are contractors who are interested in more than just making lots of money. They also want to do right by their employees. And we’re here to help them do that.”
Contact David Barbati at 617-288-6200 x134
The GB-PCA will maintain its ties to the Massachusetts PHCC, the organization that represents the industry around the state, and on Beacon Hill. “The PHCC of Mass. has been an incredibly valuable ally, and we plan to maintain a strong relationship with them.” At the same time the fifty-plus contractors associated with the organization wanted to build
“We plan to become the Greater Boston Plumbing Contractors Association.”
new ties with the Mechanical Contractors Association of America. “MCAA is a union contactor group, and all members of our association are union companies. We hire directly from Local 12 in Boston. MCAA has a new division that focuses specifically on union plumbing contractors, and that has great appeal,” Kelleher said. The MCAA, and its local branch, the New England Mechanical Contractors Association (NEMCA) run programs on topics like collective bargaining, union training programs, pension programs, and other areas that directly affect union contractors. “Becoming an independent association will allow us to take advantage of the valuable strengths that both PHCC and MCAA bring to the table,” Kelleher said. PAGE 2
his old address as one of the building’s tenants.)
Continued from page 1 unlock the neighborhood’s potential, we needed to give them incentives.” Among the first projects to emerge after the new zoning was adopted was the Fenway Triangle Trilogy, which straddles both Boylston Street and Brookline Ave. Samuels & Associates, one of the area’s key developers, opened the multi-use building in 2006. Budgeted at $225 million, the 1 million-square-foot property includes 576 housing units. It also offers street-level retail, including Sweet Cheeks Q. Rather than the go-to place for franks, sausage sandwiches, and peanuts, the popular BBQ restaurant has helped upgrade the Fenway’s reputation and usher in a new dining era. In 2008, Samuels & Associates completed 1330 Boylston Street. The $150-million project includes 200 housing units and the Fenway Community Health Center. The Viridian and the Van Ness One of the Fenway's modern-day pioneers, The Abbey Group redeveloped the historic, art-deco Landmark Center and reopened the former Sears warehouse in 2000 as a multi-use retail, entertainment, and office complex. Among its current projects is The Viridian. It is taking shape along Boylston Street on the spot of a former McDonald’s. Set to open later this year, the 18-story, 350,000-square-foot building will have 342 luxury rental apartments as well as ground-level restaurants and retail. PHCC of Greater Boston contractor E.M. Duggan is handling
Developers play ball in the Fenway
the plumbing, heating, and sprinkler work for the project. “It’s been an aggressive schedule and a bit of a tough location,” says Len Monfredo, executive vice president of operations. As with all of its projects, Duggan pre-fabricated as much of the mechanical systems as possible in its Canton shop. The rental units incorporate ClimateMaster heat pumps. Getting the pre-fab systems — as well as Duggan’s crew — to the job site has sometimes been difficult. “Game days have been especially challenging, with increased Sox traffic and parking at a premium,” says Monfredo. Another Samuels & Associates project set to open soon is Van Ness with 550,000 total square feet, including 172 apartments, 237,000 square feet of office space, and 200,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. PHCC of Greater Boston contractor American Plumbing and Heating is part of the building
The Van Ness will include a City Target that will occupy two floors.
trades team constructing the twotower project on Boylston Street. One of the interesting features of Van Ness is a 170,000 square foot City Target that will occupy the second and third floors of one of the towers. It will be the first East Coast location of the big box store’s urban brand. “That kind of vertical retail is dynamic for the city, let alone the Fenway,” says Greeley. Future projects also reshaping Fenway
The Landmark Center, which kicked off the transformation of the neighborhood, is itself set to be transformed again. Now owned by Samuels & Associates, the developer plans to remove the existing parking garage, add up to 550 new residential units, and expand both office and retail space, including a Wegmans supermarket. Perhaps the flashiest — and most challenging — project proposed for the area is the Fenway Center. Developed by John Rosenthal of Meredith Management, the 1.3 million square-foot, five-building, 4.5-acre complex would include 550 residential units, 160,000 square feet of office space, more than 50,000 square feet of retail, and 30,000 square feet of parks and green spaces. It would be built on a deck above the Mass Turnpike. “We’ve had a lot of fits and starts with this one,” says the BRA’s Greeley. The ambitious $550-million project, which would be adjacent to the MBTA’s recently expanded Yawkey Station commuter rail stop, requires public Continued on page 4
On a triangular piece of property at the intersection of Brookline Ave., Park Drive, and Boylston Street, The Point will serve as a gateway to the Fenway. Developed by Samuels & Associates, the 340,000-square-foot, 24story project is slated to include 280 rental units on top of two floors of retail. Slated to open in 2016, it will include a rooftop pool and terrace that should have amazing sightlines to Fenway Park. Ronald McDonald was not the only fast food icon booted from the Fenway. Burger King packed up his scepter and crown to make way for 1350 Boylston Street. The Swedish developer, Skanska, plans to build a 195foot tower with 240 apartments and ground-floor retail. (There's no word whether Burger King, crown in hand, might return to
The Fenway Center would be built on a deck over the Mass Turnpike. The project has been delayed over funding and air rights issues. PAGE 3
Fenway Hotel The Verb is the Subject of Much Attention uct of the 1970s and someone who enjoys the J. Geils Band, Aerosmith, and other homegrown bands, the A.H. Burns president says that he is also a big fan of The Verb’s theme.
AMONG RECENT MEGADEVELOPMENTS IN THE BUSTLING
FENWAY, the low-
slung building doesn’t occupy much vertical or horizontal space. But the transformation of the Howard Johnson Hotel into The Verb is generating outsized buzz in the area. With its quirky name, the vintage, cherry-red tour bus parked in front, the intriguing black and white images of scraggly folks flashing the peace sign on its marquee, and its general sense of outthere style, the property makes quite a bold statement on Boylston Street. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, however. Steve Samuels bought the HoJo with the intent of tearing it down and erecting another of the midand high-rise multi-use projects that his company, Samuels and Associates, and others have developed recently in the area. Originally opened in 1959 as the Fenway Motor Hotel, the classic mid-century, two-story property features 93 rooms arranged around an outdoor swimming pool. Instead of demolishing it, Samuels recognized the good bones and character the building offered and decided to save it, retheme it, and use it to celebrate the neighborhood’s legacy. Although the property sits within spitting distance of Fenway Park, the neighborhood
Among The Verb’s quirky details are its marquee and a vintage tour bus.
legacy Samuels wanted to celebrate was not baseball but Boston's rock scene. The HoJo hotel and its Hong Kong Café, which was open late and appealed to night owls, was an outpost for local and touring musicians who played the clubs in the area. A few doors away, the studios of WBCN radio set the city’s music and cultural tone. Around the corner, the alternative Boston Phoenix newspaper did the same thing in print. Photos of rock icons and lesser-known musicians, Boston Phoenix covers, vintage typewriters, and other pop-culture artifacts are displayed in guest rooms as well as public spaces. Multicolored windowpanes give the atrium and pool area a stylish look but don’t hide the property’s classic motel character. As for the name, a hotel rep says
that The Verb implies energy and action, that it is a part of speech and ties into the writing at the Boston Phoenix, and that the word suggests “reverb,” a favorite effect used by guitar players and vocalists. “It looks and feels like something out of a Mad Men episode,” says Jonathan Greeley, senior infrastructure and public realm planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority. “It’s very cool.” The hotel’s retro vibe didn’t make its way into the bathrooms according to John Marani, president of A.H. Burns, the PHCC of Greater Boston contractor who did the plumbing work on the project. Structurally, he says, the guest rooms remained intact and were gutted and renovated. The plumbing infrastructure was generally fine, and didn't require any major upgrades. Five of the units were brought up to ADA code. A.H. Burns outfitted the bathrooms with contemporary fixtures. Flushometer-style toilets were changed to Toto tank models. The shop also helped get the hotel’s pool in shape. In warmer months, the pool and deck area are now a focal point at The Verb.
The snazzy pool deck is a hot spot at The Verb hotel.
“The whole property looks amazing considering the shape it was in when we first went in there,” Marani says. “I think the funky décor is great.” As a prod-
An updated bathroom in one of the guest rooms. A.H. Burns did the plumbing work
Fenway Projects Continued from page 3 and private funds, the use of state land, and air rights permits. “The project would help stitch the neighborhood together,” Greeley says, referring to the Mass Pike that cuts through the Fenway and separates it from Kenmore Square and Boston University’s campus. “It is transit-oriented development in its truest sense. The potential is tremendous.” According to the BRA, more than 1600 residential units have been built or planned for the Fenway since 2000. The explosive growth is making it a vibrant live/work/play neighborhood. “Driven by the park’s nostalgic appeal and all of the exciting things going on there, Fenway has become a really cool part of the city,” says Monfredo. “I think we will see even more development.” PAGE 4
Contractors and Plumbers Gear Up for Service Work
PLUMBERS THAT SPECIALIZE IN SERVICE WORK need a unique set of “soft” skills to properly interact with customers. Local 12’s Training Center is developing a separate-track curriculum for apprentices that want to pursue a career doing service work.
Continued from page 1 ness and gain market share. “We build the buildings, and we know them better than anybody,” says Harry Brett, Local 12's business manager. “We should be servicing them as well. We have been leaving a lot of work behind.” It wasn’t always this way. Union shops used to regularly perform service work. Over time, the shops consolidated, began specializing, and evolved to focus on new construction. By the 1990s, with the exception of a few holdouts, they mostly abandoned service work. By becoming dependent on new construction, many contractors suffered through some lean years when the Great Recession brought the construction industry to a halt. Some saw it as a wakeup call and recognized the need to diversify. “We consider service an important part of doing business,” says Len Monfredo, executive vice president of operations for E.M. Duggan, a PHCC of Greater Boston contractor. “It’s guaranteed work for us and can help carry us through the next construction market downturn.” Duggan has long had a modest service division, but has recently brought on more plumbers and put more vans on the road to handle the increased workload.
Monfredo says that the company has begun a big push to secure service contracts for buildings it has constructed, and the efforts have been paying off. “The complex mechanical systems at these big buildings need to be regularly serviced,” he notes. “It might as well be us doing the work.” Encouraged by the results, Monfredo says that the company plans to quadruple the size of its service department over the next two years. Home is Where the Local 12 Plumber Is The outreach to expand service work is not restricted to commercial work. The PHCC of Greater Boston and Local 12 have also been trying to drum up more residential service work — another market that union shops used to court, but have largely neglected over time. Over the past few years, the two organizations have jointly developed a marketing program directed to homeowners and established a toll-free number to route residential service calls to participating contractors. The local program will become part of Plumbers911, a plumbing service marketing effort that the national plumbing union, the United Association, recently rolled out. The expanded program, which will market affili-
ated contractors for residential as well as commercial service work, will include the Web site launch of boston.plumbers911.com. To reach a Plumbers911 contractor for service by phone, the number is 855-550-9911.
Because they may be on call after hours for emergencies, they also need to be able to handle an irregular schedule.
In addition to Patriot and Duggan, other companies participating in the Plumbers911 service program are Dowd Plumbing in Stoughton, O’Connell Plumbing & Heating in Salem, and Valante Mechanical in Quincy. In order for the shops to expand their service work, they need to bring on additional plumbers. “Local 12 has done a great job making service plumbers available to us,” says Noiles. “They are backing the initiative to capture more of this market.”
need to develop their own skills. They need to maintain contact with building owners and develop relationships with them. They also need to advertise their services and build databases of their service customers.
The “soft” skills that plumbers need to interact with customers include considerations like the work clothes they wear and the One of the PHCC of Greater presentation they make. They Boston contractors participating also include things that might in the Plumbers911 program is seem insignifiPatriot Plumbing cant, but can be and Heating in boston.plumbers911.com critical, such as Quincy. About placing booties 70% of its work over work shoes to protect cusis devoted to service, much of it for property management compa- tomers’ floors. Carter says that in nies, according to Ken Noiles, Pa- about one year the Training Center will offer a separate track for triot’s outside superintendent. apprentices that want to specialBut he says that the company is ize in service. hoping to take on more residential work and has been targeting Contractors that want to gencondo owners in the Boston area. erate more service work also
“When it comes to service, we’re the best-kept secret.” says Brett. “We want to broaden our scope. We can — and we will — do this.”
Putting Customer Service into Plumbing Service “A leak is a leak,” Brett says. Whether it’s a single-family home or a 50-story high-rise, the plumbing work is universal. But, he notes, plumbers who do service work, as opposed to those who do new construction, deal directly with the end user. Local 12’s Training Center is developing a curriculum to address the unique skills that service plumbers require. “It takes a special person to be a service technician,” explains the center’s director, Rick Carter. “They have to be competent mechanics, but they also need to be good with people.”
LOCAL 12 APPRENTICE CHARLES KNIGHT represented Massachusetts in the national Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors’ 2014 Apprentice Contest held last November in New Orleans. Among the events in the competition, Knight had to install a three-piece bathroom consisting of a sink, toilet, and shower. PAGE 5
Training Center Switches to Plumbing Immersion Day Program plumbing immersion program, they now attend classes for eight hours, five weekdays in a row. Held from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the daytime classes mimic the hours of a job site. The intensive 40-hour sessions are scheduled every six weeks for each group of apprentices. The total number of classroom hours is the same, but the experience is quite different.
FOR YEARS, LOCAL 12 APPRENTICES WOULD WORK A FULL DAY AND THEN
TRAINING CENTER TO TAKE CLASSES AT NIGHT. It was a grueling TRUDGE TO THE
schedule that generations of plumbers endured — until this school year. Apprentices now attend classes during the day in concentrated, weeklong blocks. The switchover was seamless, the response has been great, and the results have been highly encouraging, according to Rick Carter, the Training Center’s director. In the old model, apprentices would attend weekly classes for three hours, two nights each week, from September to May. For the
“Studies confirm that night school isn’t as effective,” Carter says. “We’re conditioned to get up and go to work or school each day. At night, our brains gear down.” Apprentices are more attuned to learning during the day. The longer school day and the continuity of five days of classes in a row also allows the Training Center’s instructors to explore topics in greater depth and the apprentices to better grasp and reinforce the material. “It’s great to walk through the Training Center now and see the apprentices engaged,” says Harry Brett. After taking over the position of Local 12 business manager in 2013, he has made the day school changeover one of
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his top priorities. “I believe it leads to a marked improvement in the quality of the program and the skill level of the apprentices,” Brett adds. The students themselves confirm Brett’s assessment. Returning apprentices have nothing but positive feedback about the day program. Some say that they learn more in one week than they did in an entire year of night school classes. Another benefit? By switching to days, the center is now available at night for expanded journeymen and masters review and training classes. Brett says the building is being better utilized throughout the day, and Local 12 is better able to deliver on its mission to give its members the best career-long training in the industry. Breaking with such a long-held tradition did cause some concerns, especially among contractors. Since the night school schedule didn’t interfere with work, some were hesitant about losing their apprentices at job sites for one week at a time. Brett says that making the change to day school might seem disruptive to contractors now, but he believes it will pay great dividends to them in the future. “My hope is that apprentices will be such broader-skilled mechanics, it will allow contractors to expect and get more from them. Contractors should be able to take on more work as a result.”
Plumbers & Gasfitters Boston Local 12 1240 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, MA 02125 617-288-5400
Editorial Board Harry Brett Business Manager, U.A. Local 12 Edward Strickland President, PHCC of Greater Boston George Donahue Business Agent, U.A. Local 12 Hugh Kelleher Executive Director, PHCC of Greater Boston Roger Gill Funds Administrator, U.A. Local 12
Published on Apr 6, 2015
News and Information about the Eastern Massachusetts Plumbing Industry. Highlights include developers play ball in the Fenway neighborhood,...